Official Error Overpayments

Currently, there are 0 users and 1 guest visiting this topic.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 29 total)
  • Author
  • #19680

    I’m currently in ‘discussion’ with our recovery team regarding Official Error overpayments and where the decision to recover/not recover lies.

    I say the decision lies within Assessments, they say within the Recovery team.

    To me the conflict of interest is overwhelming. I believe such a decision should clearly be made by a person who has no responsibility for the recovery of the overpayment.

    I would be interested to hear the thoughts and practices of other LA’s.


    I say assessmnents but recoverable but not “reasonable to recover” may also be a Recovery Team decision. How about working together?


    We don’t have the luxury of a separate OP team so the recovery issue is decided by the decision maker. Where an LA error OP occurs and there is doubt as to whether or not it is recoverable, it is referred to a team leader/ Auditor/ Appeals Officer or similar, or higher graded officer for consideration of classification as non – recoverable LA error, taking into consideration whether or not the claimant may have contributed to it, thereby removing some, if not all, LA error aspect, and whether they could be expected to be aware that an OP had occurred.

    Hope this helps!!

    Do I know what I'm doing? The jury's out on that........................


    we have two separate write off sheets.

    One is for official error overpayments or for overpayments where the decision is made not to recover a recoverable overpayment because it is considered unreasonable because of the claimants personal circumstances eg elderly or terminally ill.

    these are filled out by the assessment team and counter signed by senior officer/team leaders.

    On occasion when checking an overpayment sheet I have passed back to assessment with a recommendation that it not be recovered, this is usually because I have noticed something that the assessor has missed.

    The other write off sheet is used in overpayments team and is for overpayments that we have decided not to pursue because it is uneconomical or we have exhausted all avenues of recovery.

    I think the decision not to recover official error or recoverable overpayments lies with the assessment team in the first instance.


    I currently assess; making me a decision maker.

    I decide if there was an overpayment.

    I decide the amount(s) of any overpayment.

    I decide how any overpayment is to be classified and any divisions where an overpayment may have several elements to classify.

    I decide on the recoverability of any overpayment.

    I notify affected parties of any overpayments.

    I recover, recoverable overpayments where I can, through ongoing entitlement or so called “blameless tenant” systems.

    I decide on the rate of recovery for recovery through ongoing entitlement.

    I create and send out bills for overpaid benefit to appropriate party/ies where entitlement has ended or recovery is to be from landlord etc.

    None of my work is overseen or “referred up” to a more senior officer; these decisions are “mine” which I make on behalf of the authority.

    Of course, we have a “recovery section” that does the rest but they have no input on the above functions.


    We are in the process of appointing an Overpayment Officer, so I imagine this would fall into the that role. At the moment the Assessor (who in our LA have the legislative knowledge of overpayments) identifies non-recovorable overpayments.


    My feeling is that the assessors should certainly be classifying the o/p, giving reasons, dates etc etc but that decisions on recovery should be the overpayment officers / recovery teams !!

    Assessors don’t (and wouldn’t want) to get involved in decisions about write offs etc so why about whether to recover any Official Error o/ps.

    I suppose there may be a difference in LA’s between what is an Overpayments Officer and all that entails and a ‘recovery team’ but I would still say that an assessors role ends at classification.


    Surely if someone can decide whether someone has been overpaid or not they can decide if that overpayment is recoverable or not too – and if it is recoverable, then whether or not it should be. In most instances it would be recoverable – and for those where it isnt straightforward some guidance may be needed.

    Splitting the job up into assessment officers, overpayments officers, appeals officers, counter staff, call centre staff etc seems more like an exercise in de-skilling with a view to downgrading benefits staff and privatisation.

    With the all singing all dancing (in theory and the brochures at least) benefits systems these days and properly trained staff I dont see any need for separate recovery teams – especially if we are making the right decisions in the first place. You only need one person to make the right decision(s) but hiving bits off here and there the more chances are for inconsistency and errors and the processes become more and more detached from the purpose of the benefits scheme in the first place. Though I suppose we can always rely on the ‘quality’ officers to keep an eye out for those …

    on second thoughts why not just flog the whole thing to India and be done with it …


    I believe that if the assessor has created the overpayment they should also make the decision about whether to recover it or not.

    Most overpayments are recoverable.

    A number of overpayments were created at this authority because the wrong IRL code was used when the claim was initially put on. Once the decison came back from the rent officer it was decided that these overpayments would not be recovered.

    This was on the basis that the claimant could not have realised that we had used the wrong code.

    These overpayments (if recovered) would have been recovered from ongoing entitlement. Surely it would make more sense for the asssessor to make the decision at the time of creation – rather than passing to an overpayments officer to decide for them?

    It may depend on how your overpayment team is set up – but if it is only one or two people and they are mainly responsible for recovery of debtors, then the rest of the overpayment process should be left with assessment.


    There have been many postings on the ‘decision maker’ recovering the overpayment… However, the decision to create, and classify, (or even re-classify), and overpayment as LA or claimant error etc. is but one decision… Another also exists…

    The decision to recover, is also a decision, and by definition, whether the decision to recover is made by an assessment officer, or a recovery officer, they both act as decision-makers !!!

    For what it is worth, I consider that O/P decisions are best made by assessment sections… I worked in one LA, where the O/P manager was recovering O/P’s that did not exist, as they had been ‘revised away’ and was also recovering O/P’s from the person he thought was responsible for the re-payment, even though they were covered by the ‘blameless landlord’ rules, and therefore not legally responsible for the repayment of any sum… This caused additional problems, as I was making decisions on O/P appeals, but he thought my decisions did not affect him, as he was the O/P manager, so insisted he could continue to recover the O/P, as he had manually entered it on his system, and overridden the credit postings I sent through from the HB system to nil the O/P!!! Like Duhhhhhhh…

    O/P recovery decisions should be made by people with the knowledge and skill to identify them. Once identified, then of course they should be recovered by the people most able to recover them, subject to any revisions that are made by assessment or appeals staff….


    The original question about ‘official error’ overpayments is surely straightforward. [b:4a10764871]They are not legally recoverable. There is no decision at all about whether to recover or not. [/b:4a10764871]
    Unless the recovery team are putting forward arguments that the claimant/landord could have been expected to have known of the OP. In which case the overpayments are not official error. Would the recovery team be proficient as benefit practitioners and be able to make that decision……..?
    The LA must decide whether to actually recover all overpayments, even the legally recoverable ones. Judging from the tone of the initial post, it appears the authority in question recovers all the recoverable ones, and wants to recover even the unrecoverable ones.


    Er…yes they can be !!


    ‘Er… yes they can be !!’ what, exactly?


    Official Error o/ps are either recoverable or irrecoverable, you can certainly recover OE ops if ‘the claimant, person acting on their behalf, or any other person to whom the benefit was paid, could, at the time of receipt of the payment, or any notice relating to that payment, reasonably have been expected to realise that it was an overpayment.

    So classification of an o/p IS totally seperate to whether the thing can/should/will be recovered. But you certainly can recover an o/p that has been classified as Official Error .


    The overpayments team at this authority is made up of one person who has recovery experience and a senior officer who had previously been a Benefit practitioner.

    Historically recovery of HB overpayments was affected by the lack of HB knowledge that those who had to recover them had.

    Just for simple things like realising that a person had gone back onto Benefit.

    Also, not all overpayments are or were actually correct as I discovered when I came into post initally, but the officers who previously had to recover would not have known that they were wrong.

    All overpayments are recoverable even official error overpayments The authority has to ask themselves whether the claimant their appointee or agent etc could reasonably have been expected to realise that an overpayment had been made when the payments, or the notification of the payment ws received.

    If an overpayment occurs because of DWP error and they confirm it was their error the overpayment is not recovered.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 29 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.